Hear the phrase “restaurant group,” and it’s natural to envision a corporate phalanx of spots, devoid of spontaneity or innovation. In the case of the eight-restaurant-strong Z Hospitality Group, however, creativity and pleasure accompany consistency.
That’s why, over the years, I’ve frequented many of the company’s restaurants, including Terra, Mediterraneo, and East End, in Greenwich; and Sole in New Canaan. I’ve always been able to count on sophisticated, well-executed dishes, in stylish and pleasant surroundings.
Mediterraneo in White Plains is no exception. Opened several months ago, the newest spot in Z’s portfolio is a worthy addition, exceeding its sister establishments in ambience. Housed in a dramatic glass-walled space across from The Ritz-Carlton, the setting is hip, classy, and transporting. Sit downstairs, near the solid white-and-gray marble bar, or in the airy, light-flooded main dining space, surrounded by massive windows. Alternatively, climb the staircase (or take the elevator) upstairs, and look down from your lofty perch onto bustling Main Street. You’ll love the striped gray-and-white wood floor, fresh flowers, rustic wood-trestle tables, and copious views. My only criticism of the atmosphere is the blaring top-40 music (which, for some reason, is even louder in the bathrooms), which distracts from the dining experience. Also know that if you sit facing the windows in the afternoon, you’ll experience some glare.
The dramatic glass-walled exterior.
The service was generally pleasing, except for the lack of a clear hostess stand at the entrance. On two of my three visits, I wasn’t properly greeted when I walked in. That said, Alonzo — my waiter on two of my visits — was so friendly, charming, and solicitous, he instantly made me forget the omission. He steered my dining companion and me toward the restaurant’s most popular dish (the Parmesan-crusted halibut). The second we’d finished the restaurant group’s trademark garlicky hummus dip, Alonzo brought over a replacement. The busboys (like the waiters, clad in black) constantly refilled our water glasses, and inquired on all three of my visits if my table wanted fresh pepper.
When it comes to the food, Mediterraneo gets the details right, elevating the dining experience. Most plates feature a dynamic design and thoughtful, pretty garnishes (such as spices, dots of colorful sauces, or tiny candies). Obviously, care has gone into each dish, many with intriguing Middle Eastern influences. In a gracious touch, each meal at a Z Hospitality restaurant begins with a choice of breads (the fluffy herbed focaccia is a must-try) and the hummus.
Since I’m a regular of the company’s restaurants, I was pleased to see some of its trademark dishes, like old friends, on the menu. The Parmesan-crusted halibut is my mainstay at Terra in Greenwich. The crisp, golden, rich cheese crust contrasts with the moist, delicate, and tender flesh. At Mediterraneo in Greenwich, I often order the grilled lamb kebab and kofte entrée, which is also available in White Plains. The tender meat is balanced by the creamy cucumber-yogurt tzatziki, and vermicelli adds interest to the well-cooked spiced basmati rice alongside. The one constant I wasn’t as pleased to experience was the uber-thin-crusted pizza, which doesn’t live up to the quality of the other entrées.
Some dishes, such as the portabella eggplant fries, were new to me — especially since the restaurant alters the menu a bit with the seasons. Here, strips of meaty mushrooms are breaded, deep-fried until perfectly crispy and served with a spicy aioli and pickled jalapeños. Of the other starters, I also loved the spiced, roasted carrots with yogurt sauce; octopus with potatoes, dried chorizo sofrito, and preserved lemon; lemony lentil-kale-chorizo soup; gnocchi and grape salad; mussels with red curry cream, cilantro, and seasonal fava beans; and fried goat cheese “blintz.” Amongst the entrées, other than the halibut and lamb, I would recommend the grilled branzino with mustard sauce and braised greens with bacon. At lunchtime, try the grilled seafood salad, suffused with lemon and accented with thinly sliced fresh fennel and arugula.
Pistachio cake with vanilla buttercream and candied lime.
Desserts impressed, as well. None were cloyingly sweet, which I appreciated. The lemon tart, surrounded by raspberry coulis, featured a tender crust and intense lemony bite. Meanwhile, the tiramisu couldn’t have been creamier. The crispy hazelnut tart, though a bit of a misnomer (there was very little crunch), still delivered, with its dark-chocolate gelato and Lilliputian cinnamon-marshmallow garnish. The vanilla-buttercream-frosting-topped pistachio cake, with crushed pistachios and crème anglaise dots on the plate, was unusual, light, and elegant. Accompanying the desserts, we tried a few of the high-quality teas, including a lovely citrus chamomile.
My quibbles with the food were minor. The octopus in the appetizer and lamb in the entrée were slightly overcooked, while (one night) the soup and tea came out dangerously hot. The lamb kebab could use more color and contrast, perhaps from roasted tomatoes and green bell peppers. A scoop of apricot or pomegranate gelato or sorbet would take the pistachio cake over the top.
Still, Mediterraneo of White Plains is a star performer, worthy of applause and repeat visits.
189 Main St, White Plains